Saturday, October 25, 2014

North Dorset Folk Festival 2014

I'm back home from the above mentioned. Was it good? Don't even get me started!
This was the third edition and the second at its current venue of Marnhull Village Hall. I think I have said each time that the latest will be hard to better. Take it as read that it applies here too.
The word bijou applies to this festival more than any other that I can think of. A jewel is usually very small but perfect and, for some reason, in English we borrowed the French word when used as an adjective. 
As a demonstration of the intimacy of the setting I took this picture from the back row of the seating and without zoom of any kind. The sound desk was perhaps 2 metres behind me and the back wall of the hall immediately behind that.
This is headline artists Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin and I shall return to them.
I'm a big fan of seeing opening acts and as it happens in this case he was the only one on the bill that I had never seen live before. This just shows the strength-in-depth on offer here. 
It was Gavin Davenport and he is hardly unknown, as the link will attest. He played a variety of instruments of which the concertina is a favourite of mine.
The next artist to play may not be known to you unless you were at Behind The Castle Festival in 2014, which is where I first saw her live. That should change very soon and I'm interested to hear how she sounds with backing musicians. Why so? See here.
Lizzyspit releases her first full length recording 'Villains' in January 2015.

I remember the next act, Tinderbox, from my visit to the first North Dorset Folk Festival (NDFF) in 2012. Totally new to me then, seeing them play again yesterday was quite the nostalgia thing.
They were, as in 2012, joined by Bob Burke (right) and he is now the only artist to have played all three editions of NDFF, where he played solo in 2013. Tinderbox release a live album 'Live! At The Cottage' shortly. Indeed, and thanks for the link information, you can now pre-order it here.  I have to say that, while you can take Monique Houraghan out of Dublin you can't take Dublin out of her. Later we were treated, by Hannah Martin, to an apposite Oscar Wilde quote! And that is not to mention the fact that Tinderbox challenged Ninebarrow (see below) to a cover 'duel' - and it seems that both parties freely accepted.

Next was the UK based but bluegrass-influenced and all-round inventiveness of three-piece Jaywalkers - from left to right: Mike, Lucy and Jay. They are working on their third LP.
The old-time Appalachian style, whether the tracks are new or traditional, was just the ticket at this point in the day.
After these four acts there was a longer interval before the next three sets. This was to allow for food, drink and also reconfiguring the stage set-up for what was to come. On the subject of food I'll say only this: Cake was clearly pretty much the only food that the artists coveted.
The music resumed with Dorset duo Ninebarrow that also play a mixture of traditional and new compositions, the latter mostly inspired by history and landscape.
I think that perhaps the most incisive comment in the link above is provided by the duo that were headlining. There is something about their take on music that really matters. They played some new songs and that really mattered too. This was taken during one of those new songs. It is astonishing to remember that their first released recording, 'Kingdom EP', was released in 2013 and d├ębut LP 'While The Blackthorn Burns' as recently as April 2014.

First support was an artist who played at the first NDFF in 2012 and that was also the first time I saw Megan Henwood play live although I was well aware of the 2011 album 'Making Waves' before that. I have seen her play solo, as a four-piece and, as here, a three-piece.
Any which way it is an experience.
The vicissitudes on the path of a musician are many and as such have delayed the release of her second LP 'Head Heart Hand'. It is now happening in March 2015 and all the omens are good.

That only leaves me to mention the headline artists - Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin. To be honest they did exactly that which I have come to expect.
They came, they played, they conquered but they are no conquistadors for they do it with guileless style rather than with fire and sword. If there were any present that hadn't seen this live and remain unconverted then I have to say its a bit like cooking mussels - if they haven't opened up after a few minutes then they were probably already dead.
Their latest studio LP 'Mynd' (2013) is excellent but, and it is relevant here, equally so is their 2014 release 'Live In Calstock' and it was recorded at another venue about as small as this. One of the best live acts in the UK today; it is as simple as that.
One more thing is that you can see another of the very best at the same venue on 9 November! Marnhull Acoustic Sessions presents The Moulettes. All six of them accompanied by even more instruments, often large ones, on that same small stage. You can see them supporting Bellowhead too, and you should do that, but I guarantee that it won't be an atmosphere quite like this and you may never be able to see them in a venue as small as this again. Tickets are £11 (including £1 booking fee).

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